The Darkest Hour by M.J.Ryder: Prologue

“Wake up Varrus, your life is mine.”

Varrus slowly swam to consciousness. He opened his eyes to reveal nothing save the impenetrable black of space.

“So you have come at last Varrus… I’ve been expecting you.”

The dark mage gulped back a murmur of disbelief as the voice thundered inside his head. That he was alive was beyond doubt, but exactly what had happened to bring him to this place of eternal night, he did not know. He floated in the blackness of some hidden purgatory – some close approximation to space – though quite precisely where this living hell was, he could not tell. He clutched the hilt of his sword tightly to still the shaking in his hands. By cheating death at the hands of the boy, he had made a terrible, terrible mistake.

“Cease your trembling mortal. I am Skargyr and you are mine now – there can be no escape. Worlds have lived and died while I have waited for someone of your qualities to find their way into my cursed prison. You shall know me now as your master.”

As memories of his former life slowly returned to him, Varrus regained some of his composure. “I serve no one!” he spat incredulously, “I am my own master and it is the fate of all mortals to serve under my rule!”

The omnipotent voice made a noise that Varrus could only guess was a laugh. It was a sound so terrible, to hear it was to listen unto the sound of death itself. At that moment Varrus realised there could be no escape, for he faced an evil star-god of the ancient world – a being with the power of the stars themselves, and a heart of pure evil. The star-god bellowed in rage.

“MORTAL?! I am no mere mortal Varrus – I am your GOD! Bow down and worship me and I shall consider sparing your worthless soul!”

Varrus felt his life-blood turning to magma, his body wracked with pain. To question the will of the voice had been a mistake. He had to make the pain stop. He had no other choice.

He howled his subservience to the star-god.

At once the pain left him. His fate was now sealed. Varrus’ voice was barely a whisper: “What would you have me do my Lord?”

“Though it has taken me countless lives of men to build the power to break my bonds, still the earth seeks to keep me contained.

“Destroy magic Varrus; bring an end to the threat of men to my plans. Stop their magicians and close their sources of magic so that at last I might be free. Do this my servant, and when the time comes, I might just spare your pitiful soul.”

Varrus shuddered as he considered the size of the task before him. Closing the sources of magic would be no simple feat, and even worse still, he knew his nemesis – the boy – would hold the key.

“Boy,” Varrus thought to himself ruefully. Such was the nature of time in this strange place, chances were the boy was already a man, and maybe even with child. He shuddered again as he felt the weight of the star-god’s gaze upon him.

“Your wish is my command… master.”

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